Help me buy a car!
February 21, 2012 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Car buying out of state: I have a NJ license, am staying with my parents for a while in NH, but my job will be in MA and I intend to also live there eventually. I need to buy a car to commute to work ASAP. I haven't had a car in 4 years. What is the best way to proceed in this situation, i.e., should I get a NH license right now, buy the car in MA with my NJ license, no idea. Will the dealer provide temporary tags and insurance, if so, for how long? I changed my address with the post office but I still own an apartment in NJ and I don't want to start paying rent ( and moving to MA) until that sells, which might take over a month.
posted by spacefire to Shopping (7 answers total)
So you have a definite job in MA that you will start soon, and you will be living in NH and commuting to MA for a while, until you find a place to settle in MA? I'm a bit confused about the sequence of events and don't want to offer any suggestions until I understand the situation better.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:18 AM on February 21, 2012

The issue of whether your license aligns with the state you are buying a car in is the smallest of your issues, usually you have a set amount of time to get this taken care of if they don't line up. Set it aside. Massachusetts has state regulated insurance which means it's impossible to register a car without having proof of insurance. For this reason alone I'd lean towards buying a registering your car in NH where you currently have residence and an address. A dealer will, usually for an extra fee, get plates for the car for you. Pretty sure that you will need to get your own insurance. If you're living with your folks you may want to see if you can temporarily be added to their insurance [or get the same broker as they have] for the time being. All of these things -- license, insurance, registration -- will be much easier to change once you have them then getting in the first place. It will cost some money so I'm unclear if the money situation is mission critical or not. If it were me I'd do it in this order

- get car now [incl NH plates and insurance]
- wait for NJ apartment to rent
- once you have a place in MA, get driver's license and insurance and register your car there

This will cost slightly more than hedging your bets and trying to get everything converted to MA stuff already. Here are links to the motor vehicle sites

- MA RMV converting an out of state license
- MA RMV converting an out of state registration
- NH DMV FAQs - registration
- NH DMV FAQs - licensing [you have 60 days to get a NH license afer moving there]
posted by jessamyn at 7:19 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will tell you that buying a car in one state and registering it in MA is a pain that, if I can, I would like to spare anyone from doing. We did this, and took us FOUR TIMES going to the RMV to get it done despite following the guidelines on their website. They are so ignorant of other state laws regarding titles it isn't even funny. They kept demanding a title for the car we bought in Maine, even though the state of Maine does not require titles for cars older than 15 years, so there was no title we could give them. And then the chain of sale had to be JUST SO for them to accept that.......So, I would not, say, buy the car in either NH or NJ and with the intent of immediately registering it in MA. Just do not do this.

I would probably change your license as soon as possible when you are in NH, buy and register the car in NH, and then when you eventually move to MA convert the registration of the car that is already registered to you. That will be much, much easier.

You could do the same in NJ, but then you'd have to register the car in both NJ and then NH when you move, which would just cost you more money.
posted by zizzle at 7:26 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is covered in one of the links Jessamyn provided, but I wanted to call it out - There's no sales tax on automobiles in NH, but if you register a NH-purchased car within 6 months of purchase in Massachusetts you'll owe MA sales tax. So depending on timing, purchasing in NH may save you paperwork hassles AND a decent chunk of change, if you end up staying with your parents for more than 6 months.
posted by jalexei at 7:58 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

If your parents live in NH, and you can buy a car in NH, why don't you just do that? It's much cheaper there and insurance is a ton cheaper. If you have the opportunity to get an NH license, that's great. The longer you keep up the appearance of living in NH, the less money you'll be paying on your car. If you go to anywhere near the NH border in MA, it seems like nearly everyone there has found a way to get an NH license, register their car in NH, and get NH plates. Sometimes I feel like a fool for not having done this.

Not to hijack the thread, but can anyone tell me the disadvantages for getting an NH license, NH insurance and an NH plate if you live in MA? I know that it can screw you if you want to get a parking permit in Boston, Somerville or Cambridge, but aside from this, what are the drawbacks?
posted by shushufindi at 6:48 AM on February 22, 2012

aside from this, what are the drawbacks?

Technically it's illegal. This is unlikely to come up in a routine traffic stop, but if there was some larger issue that involved you having to tell people both where you lived and where your car was garaged insurance-wise you could get in trouble. We have this issue near the border of VT/NH as well. If your insurance company finds out you are paying lower NH rates and you don't actually live in NH they could opt to drop your coverage which would be bad if they found it out as a result of an accident or something. Not saying tons of people don't do it anyhow, but there is a risk associated with it.

spacefire, I've also had decent luck calling the MA RMV (I know, you would never consider this possible) and asking them some of the RMV questions I had. I had to do a rather complicated transaction with them recently and though they are giant and bureaucratic, I didn't have the same experience as zizzle.
posted by jessamyn at 6:56 AM on February 22, 2012

what are the drawbacks?

There is an anonymous hotline people can call specifically to narc you out for not paying taxes. If your neighbors don't do it, the police will eventually take notice of you. My boyfriend dragged his feet on registering his Illinois car here in Massachusetts, and the one frigging day my car was in the shop and I drove his, I was pulled over and scolded by the local constabulary.
posted by Marit at 4:34 PM on February 26, 2012

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